“Mountain Meadows Memorial Helps Bring Healing,” Ensign, Dec. 1990, 66
There was what President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, described as a “spirit of reconciliation” in the air September 15 at a southern Utah memorial service for the victims of an 1857 tragedy.
President Gordon B. Hinckley so described the event as he spoke to about two thousand people gathered on the campus of Southern Utah State College in Cedar City. He also dedicated a memorial marker for the more than one hundred Arkansas emigrants who died in what is known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
Some 120 emigrants, led by John T. Baker and Alexander Fancher, were traveling through the area on their way to California when they were attacked at a site about thirty-five miles southwest of present-day Cedar City. Only eighteen of the emigrants survived.
In 1988, a group of relatives of those Arkansas emigrants began planning for installation of a granite marker on the hill overlooking the site. Learning of their efforts, Dixie Leavitt, a Cedar City businessman and Utah state senator, helped organize a committee to move the project forward more effectively. The committee included representatives of both the Arkansas natives and Utah pioneer families. The group helped raise money for the new marker. It also won the cooperation of the Church in refurbishing an older marker at the site and of the state in preparing the site for the new marker.
During the memorial program on September 15, Roger Logan, a judge from Harrison, Arkansas, and J. K. Fancher, a descendant of Alexander Fancher, spoke representing the emigrant families. Paiute tribal chairwoman Geneal Anderson introduced Clifford Jake, a Paiute spiritual leader who performed a prayer ceremony as part of the memorial service. His prayer addressed the theme of reconciliation.
Brigham Young University President Rex E. Lee spoke representing descendants of LDS pioneer families from the area. As part of his address, he called representatives of the Arkansas families to the podium, clasped hands with them, and invited the people in the audience to stand and clasp hands with their neighbors in a gesture of reconciliation.
President Hinckley complimented the “courageous men and women who opened a dialogue that has led to this historic day.” He pointed out that the faith in Jesus Christ shared by many of those present had helped heal old wounds. “A bridge has been built across a chasm of cankering bitterness,” he said.